Education writer Conor P. Williams has what he calls a “front-row seat” to the conversation about public education. And that close-up view can be pretty ugly, he writes in Talking Points Memo.
Sometimes I write things like “Some charter schools, under some circumstances, are performing especially well.” When I write these sorts of things, my inbox, my Twitter mentions, and (occasionally) my phone spontaneously, simultaneously ignite. I get accused of hating teachers, teachers unions, and (a few times) white people. I get told that I’m a secret agent for Pearson, Bill Gates, the United Nations, and sometimes even the Muslim Brotherhood (really. No—REALLY). This isn’t occasional. It happens every time I write anything vaguely favorable about reform efforts, even when it’s mixed with criticism.
He also points to the character attacks on strong reform advocates, like Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee, levied by some reform opponents. These mean-spirited attacks focus on things like the race, gender, and looks of the voices for change, and are very light on substance and solutions.
It’s the classic political ploy of: when you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger.
Not only does that type of “conversation” reek of complete incivility and indecency, it diverts attention from the issues and it tunes people out — people who have a great deal to add to the conversation.
We need more reasoned voices in the conversation, more ideas for improvements, more discussion of the ideas that are out there, more of a focus on results. That’s the better conversation we need.